Bottled Up

Margo gave a final glance up and down the road to make sure no one caught sight of her. She saw no cars in either direction, and ducked into a dry canal that ran parallel to the road. She climbed out on the other bank and disappeared under the overgrown foliage.

Margo reached her ‘secret base’ after a 20 minute walk into the heart of the forest. She discovered the rusted, green 20′ shipping container while exploring the forest. Two years later she made it as homely as a 14-year old could manage on a limited allowance. She unlocked the padlock and pulled the door open, but a meow behind her called her attention. She discovered a black cat sitting on the dirt ground staring at her. Margo noticed a mark of red fur on top of the cat’s head resembled a skull.

“Hi, kitty. Wanna see something cool?” Margo opened the door wider to invite the cat in. It meowed and trotted into the container. Margo followed and pulled portable lights out of her backpack. She placed four of them on an old, round dining table she’d found in another part of the forest. She set her backpack on one side of the table and pulled out a black, narrow case. It was a hand-me-down flute case that she inherited from her older sister, without the flute. She opened it and smiled at the shiny, dark-brown glass bottle tucked inside; then, she reached into her backpack again. Margo pulled out three plastic water bottles, then turned to talk to the cat that hopped on the table.

“You’re not gonna believe it, kitty, but this is a magic bottle,” Margo pulled the bottle out of the case and held it up for the cat to inspect. “I know it doesn’t look like much, but watch!” She set the bottle down on the table then grabbed one of the plastic bottles. She opened it and brought it to her nose. She relaxed when she did not smell anything, then brought it up to her lips. She took a small drink, then nodded. “Yep, this one’s water,” she glanced at the other two bottles. “I should’ve labeled them.”

“Anyway, there’s nothing in the bottle, right?” She grabbed the glass bottle with one hand and presented to the cat as if she were a stage magician. Margo flipped the open bottle upside down but nothing came out. She held both bottles in front of her and tilted the plastic bottle to pour a small spurt of gasoline into the glass one. She pulled them apart and smiled at the cat. “Now there’s something in the bottle.” Margo tilted the glass bottle over the plastic one until a solid stream of water flowed between them. It poured out of the glass bottle and filled the plastic one to overflowing. Then, she brought the glass bottle up to her lips and took a giant swig.

“Clean drinking water!” Margo held the bottle upside down in front of her and let the water continue to pour it. “Unlimited drinking water, but it’s cooler than that!” The girl brought the bottle to her lips again, but this time she blew sharply into the bottle instead of taking a drink. She flipped it upside down again but nothing came out. Margo set the glass bottle down then picked up the other two plastic ones. She shook them both then picked the one that fizzed.  She poured a small amount of the clear, carbonated liquid into the brown bottle, took a sip, then smiled at the cat. “Unlimited soda.” She took another drink. “You don’t know how long it took me to figure out how to reset it.” She blew into the bottle again.

“How long?” a soft, feminine voice came out of the cat’s mouth. Margo stared at the cat but she took a step toward the door. “Don’t worry, I’m not here to hurt you,” the cat said. “I want to buy the bottle from you.”  Margo pulled the bottle to her chest but stopped moving to the exit.

“You can talk?” The cat’s head dipped slightly as if it nodded. “What if I don’t want to sell it? How much money can you even have? You’re a cat.”

“No money, I grant wishes. If you don’t sell, you don’t get a wish. They mean the same to me.” Margo’s eyes narrowed and she stood up straighter.

“How are you going to grant a wish?” she asked the black cat.

“I’m a talking cat and you’re holding a magic bottle. Is me granting you a wish that much harder to believe?” Margo visibly relaxed.

“No, I guessed not.” She stepped forward and put the bottle into the flute case. “So I can wish for anything?”

“Not quite. You can ask for anything, but some things are out of my power. If you ask for something I can’t do we’ll negotiate it down until it’s something I can deliver. If you don’t decide on a wish, then no deal.”

“Travel!” the word burst out of Margo’s mouth. “I want to see things, explore everything.”

“That’s easy. You give me the bottle and I’ll help you travel, deal?” Margo nodded. She pushed the case towards the cat and smiled.

“Deal!” Margo offered a handshake out of habit, and the cat touched her hand with a paw. The cat swished its tail and a small black portal opened on the table under the case. It swallowed the flute case, then disappeared.

“Have fun,” the cat said. It swished its tail again to open a portal under Margo.

“Wait!” she tried to protest, but the hole swallowed her.

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